By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom
NEW YORK (16-Mar) -- The third and final day of New Balance Nationals Indoor 2014 came to a close here today, with one meet record falling in the distance disciplines. Camas, Wash., junior Alexa Efraimson timed 4:38.46 to win the girls mile, shaving two seconds off Elise Cranny's previous meet best of 4:40.62.
Racing for the second time at The New Balance Track & Field Center at The Armory this year, Efraimson came in with the goal of timing under 4:35. At the NYRR Millrose Games Wanamaker Women's Mile on February 15, Efraimson finished sixth in 4:32.15 against professional and collegiate competition. Today, she'd only have to face off against high school student-athletes.
Gaining the pole position from the start, Efraimson passed 400 meters in about 66 seconds. Hitting halfway in 2:16.3, it was clear that Efraimson would win. The question was by how much.
"The Armory is a fast track, and I just feel like if I'm going to PR by myself anywhere it's going to be here," she said, explaining why she went so hard early on.
A five-second lead at three quarters of a mile stayed consistent through the finish, as Efraimson pushed on despite feeling the after effects of her hot early pace. Slowing in the second half, she'd ultimately stopped the clock in 4:38.46, a new meet best.
"It is satisfying. I was hoping for a little bit more but that's OK. There are more meets," said Efraimson, who sported a hand-written saying of 'Dream Big, Run Fast, Finish Strong' on her left calf.
Efraimson noted that her next big race will be the Arcadia Invitational 2 mile in California next month.
Moments after Efraimson broke Elise Cranny's meet record in the mile, Cranny walked onto The Armory's oval for the 800m. Just like Efraimson, Cranny controlled the competition, taking the lead at 300 meters and never looking back.
Cranny, from Boulder, Colo., wound up winning in 2:06.47, two seconds ahead of runner-up Ersula Farrow.
"I feel really good," said Cranny, who like Efraimson would have liked to run a bit faster but was fine with earning the title.
Cranny credited her coach, elite marathoner Jason Hartmann, as a key reason for her recent success both on the track and in cross country. Last fall she placed second at Nike Cross Nationals and went on to win the USA Junior Cross Country title.
"Consistency," Cranny said. "The consistency of my training. My coach, just saying consistent and staying healthy is like paying off now in my last year."
Hartmann, who was in attendance, took 19th at the NYC Half earlier today. Cranny will attend Stanford University next year.
In the first girls' distance event of the day, Tessa Barrett won the two mile in 10:08.05, her second title at this meet. Waiting until 200 meters remained, Barrett passed Hannah Debalsi --who had led nearly the entire race-- with authority. Taking first, Barrett earned her second national championship in three days; she won the 5000m in a national high school record of 16:11.85 on Friday evening. Debalsi, of Westport, Conn., is only a sophomore.
"It hasn't sunk in yet, it's crazy. I'm just so blessed, I feel so humbled just to be around these girls who are all phenomenal, phenomenal runners that I know we are going to see in years do phenomenal things in college," said Barrett, who is bound for Penn State next fall.
On the boy's side, last year's Foot Locker Cross Country National Champion Grant Fisher won the mile in 4:09.46. With a quarter mile remaining, Fisher made a decisive move, throwing in a very hard surge that no one could match.
"The plan going into the race was to make that move with two [laps] to go," he said. "Thankfully everything worked out and went according to plan today."
Fisher was a member of Team USA at the 2013 IAAF World Youth Championships, running 3:50.30 for 1500m.
In the boys 800m, an exciting duel played out between Virginia's Derek Holdsworth and Kenneth Hagen. Hagen, who earned All-American honors in the 4x800m on Saturday, lost a shoe on the opening lap, though didn't slow down in the slightest.
With 200 meters remaining, Holdsworth drew even with Hagen, running stride for stride together. At the line, it was Holdsworth by a hair, 1:51.72 to 1:51.90.
"What can you do?" said Hagen with a smile.
"I kind of knew if I could stay next to him and all, I'd get it. It's a little scary sometimes cause he's got as much leg speed as I do," said Holdsworth, still celebrating his win.
The boys two-mile was won by Canada's Charles Cooper. Like the women's race, it came down to a last lap kick, as Cooper charged to the lead and fended off runner-up Paul Hogan of Massachusetts.
"I was aiming for top three coming in, so to win was really good. It felt great," said Cooper, who was one of three competitors to break nine minutes. His time was 8:59.61.
About 4,500 student-athletes competed at New Balance Nationals Indoor 2014. The three-day meet saw a total of seven national high school records fall by the wayside.
PHOTO: Alexa Efraimson (Camus, Wash.) after winning the mile at the 2014 New Balance Nationals Indoors (photo by Chris Lotsbom for Race Results Weekly)